Water, the essence of life. Without water no development is possible. When I lived in Europe, in the delta of the huge European rivers the Rijn and the Maas, I never thought of water shortages. In fact, it was more the opposite. Floods threaten the Netherlands once in a while. In 1953, thousands of Dutch died when dikes broke during a western storm and a quarter of Holland was flooded. In 1995, the river Maas rose many meters above her average level and weeks-long the country was on a mission to save many villages and cities along the river.
A shortage of water in South East Asia, it’s hard to imagine when you think about the torrential rains that are battering countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and Singapore during the rainy season. In Mondulkiri, the biggest province of Cambodia and home to our Kamkav plantations, water was never a problem. Until ten years ago, Mondulkiri had a dry season of two, maximum three months. Now, a decade later, we are tortured by a drought that starts at the end of October, early November and continues till April. At this very moment, all farms are struggling with their water supply. Owners of excavators are experiencing golden times. Everybody wants to make their ponds deeper and wider. We bought extra land in the lowest part of the valley and dug a huge pond there. Unfortunately, big rocks are blocking us from going any deeper than 2.30 meters. Groundwater slowly finds its way but not quick enough to supply for our total irrigation demand.
The horrible drought in California is well-known thanks to the supremacy of the US media. But in South East Asia water shortages will become a media and political issue as well. There are Belgian reports about coffee in Vietnam that predict that 50% of the coffee farmers might need to change their coffee to another -less water depending – crop as early as 2020.
We in the meantime see no other solution than to look for dynamite to blow up the rocky formation in our pond so we can continue to dig deeper. Our cacao trees suffer already heavily, and 30% died this season. We can’t afford ourselves to loose more.